30 Fascinating Facts About Vikings

Around 1000 AD, the Vikings arrived on what is now Canada, 500 years prior to Christopher Columbus discovering America.

Despite being from Scandinavia, the Vikings were skilled in exploring, trading, colonizing, and looting.

They instilled fear in Europe and parts of the Middle East, which is why they remain notorious to this day.

Here are 30 unbelievable facts about Vikings that will shock you!

Vikings never wore horned helmets, and the word “Viking” means “a pirate raid” in old Norse.

The Viking age lasted just under 300 years between 900 AD and 1066.

Archaeologists have found razors, tweezers, combs, and ear cleaners at excavation sites, indicating that Vikings had good hygiene and bathed at least once a week, more frequently than other Europeans of their time.

Due to their religion, the Norse believed that deceased warriors went to incredible realms after their death. Burying their dead in boats, along with their weapons, jewelry, and sometimes even sacrificed slaves, was common practice to help reach the afterlife.

Primitive skis were invented by Scandinavians 6,000 years ago, and by the Viking era, skiing was used for traveling and entertainment. The goddess of skiing was Skadi.

Vikings spent most of their time farming barley, rye, oats, and raising cattle, goats, pigs, and sheep on farms that could support their family.

Due to the beauty ideals of Norse culture, brunette Vikings (often men) would bleach their hair, which also helped with head lice.

The Vikings did not call themselves Vikings, and they did not consider themselves a united group. They were a series of chieftain-led tribes that fought against each other throughout Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

The Vikings practiced Norse Paganism, and Odin and Thor were the head of their gods. They believed that if they died in battle, Odin could choose them to bring to Valhalla, their version of Heaven where only the legendary Norse heroes go.

Viking women had more rights than most women in other cultures. They had the right to inherit property and divorce their husbands.

It’s hard to gather information about the Vikings because they never documented their own history. Most of what is known about Viking raids and customs comes from what their enemies documented about them.

There were four major classes of Nordic societies: Kings, Jarls, Karls, and Thralls. Kings were the rulers, Jarls were the noblemen, Karls were the farmers, tradesmen, and builders, while the thralls were the slave class.

Berserkers were Vikings who would go into battle in a trance-like state of rage. They often wore bear or wolf skins into battle.

20% of words in the English language have their origins in Old Norse, including words like anger, ugly, weak, skull, and slaughter. Vikings were known to keep pets such as cats, dogs, falcons, peacocks, and even bears. Baby bears were caught and raised by Viking families, but polar bears were reserved for nobility. Unfortunately, only 80% of Viking children survived past the age of five, and sick or weakly children were often abandoned or thrown into the sea due to the importance Vikings placed on strength and power. A remote valley in Sweden still speaks an ancient Viking dialect of Old Norse. The Bluetooth symbol is actually an old Viking rune representing the initials of a Viking King. Greenland was discovered by the Vikings long before the Inuit arrived, but the Norse settlements were eventually attacked and destroyed by the Inuit. One Viking King was so serious about Christmas that he made his subjects drink ale throughout the holidays, fining anyone who didn’t. The Vikings called their meetings to make laws and settle disputes the “Thing.” One Viking King even ruled as the King of England for a brief five weeks. Viking women would feed injured warriors a broth with potent onions to test the severity of their wounds; if they could smell the broth through the injury, it was too deep to be fixed. The Vikings were known for their impressive boat-building skills, inventing the keel and central spines to make boats more stable. Some Viking runes were just forms of graffiti, like “Tholfir Kolbeinsson carved these runes high up.” Poetry was considered a gift from Odin, and the Vikings invented “flyting,” a poetic exchange of insults similar to rap battles. Iceland’s national sport, Glíma, is a Scandinavian martial art used by Vikings.

FAQ

1. Who were the Vikings?

The Vikings were skilled seafarers from Scandinavia who raided and traded from the late eighth to the early 11th century. They were also known for their exploration, colonization, and conquests of new lands, including Iceland, Greenland, and parts of North America.

2. What language did the Vikings speak?

The Vikings spoke Old Norse, which is an extinct Germanic language. It was the language of the Vikings’ sagas, poems and scripts, and was used in Scandinavia and parts of Europe until the 14th century. Today, Icelandic is the closest surviving language to Old Norse.

3. What were the Vikings’ beliefs?

The Vikings were polytheistic, meaning they worshipped many gods and goddesses. Their religion was known as Norse mythology, and it included gods like Odin, Thor, and Freyja. They believed in an afterlife, where warriors who died in battle would go to Valhalla, a hall ruled by Odin.

4. What did the Vikings wear?

The Vikings wore a variety of clothing, depending on their social status and occupation. Men typically wore tunics, trousers, and cloaks made of wool or linen. Women wore similar clothing, but with longer dresses and head coverings. Both men and women wore jewelry, including necklaces, bracelets, and brooches.

5. What were the Vikings’ weapons?

The Vikings were known for their weapons, which included swords, spears, axes, bows and arrows, and shields. They were skilled in their use and were feared in battle. The Vikings also used boats as weapons, ramming them into enemy ships to sink them.

6. How did the Vikings bury their dead?

The Vikings buried their dead in a variety of ways, depending on their social status and beliefs. Wealthy Vikings were often buried in ships or burial mounds with their possessions. Others were buried in simple graves with little ceremony. Some Vikings also practiced cremation, burning their dead and scattering the ashes.

7. What were the Vikings’ ships like?

The Vikings’ ships were called longships, and they were designed for speed and maneuverability. They were long and narrow, with a shallow draft that allowed them to navigate shallow waters. They were also equipped with oars and sails, which made them versatile and able to travel long distances.

8. What did the Vikings eat?

The Vikings ate a variety of foods, including meat, fish, grains, and vegetables. They were skilled hunters and fishermen, and they also raised animals like cows and pigs. They drank mead, a type of fermented drink made from honey, and beer, which was brewed from grains.

9. What was the Vikings’ legacy?

The Vikings left a lasting impact on the world, both through their conquests and their culture. They influenced the development of England, Scotland, Ireland, and other parts of Europe. They also left behind a rich cultural legacy, including their mythology, art, and literature, which continue to inspire people today.

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